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European potato outlook: Planted area expected to be down, processors anticipate increased demand

As plantings for the 2021 potato crop in North-western Europe is wrapping up, the NEPG reports that the final planted potato area within the NEPG region (EU-4) will most likely be reduced by 3 to 5 percent. The so-called EU-4 countries include the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.

NEPG says this is an absolutely historical event – the last time the planted area went down was in 2014), while the total area has usually gone up year after year for the past two decades. The industry body further says that its repeated calls to growers since last summer to lower their planted area, and the difficult situation on the free buy market since the 2020 harvest, have been headed by growers.

Cold and dry weather since mid-April

Even if winter 2020-2021 was usually wetter than the last three or four winters, the weather has been colder and dryer since mid-April. Earlies were planted between end of February and April. Some plantings of maincrop happened of March beginning of April in some regions, but real work started third week of April.

Main crop plantings have been done very swiftly and in good but cold conditions.

Frost protection by irrigation was largely used in the early producing regions of Western Germany, whereas in Belgium and Germany earlies kept quiet under snowfall around April 6. Earlies have currently a two week delay due to the cold weather. And the mostly dry weather could also have an impact if it stays around for another couple of weeks.

At the end of the first week of May, maincrop planting were estimated to be above 95%. The cold weather with some frosts at night since the third week of April has slowed down any quick emergence.

Good undertone for the old crop market

The free market is in a bullish mood, as processors expect some kind of boom or at least an increase in demand in the coming weeks and months – on the NEPG market, but also for shipment to other European countries and for export outside the Union.

Growers are confident about the future market, since the early crops will be later, while the main crops will ermerge later. The cold weather since the beginning of April has helped to keep most stocks in good shape (not as much sprouting as feared at the end of the winter).

Free buy volumes of available stock are also lower than in recent years.

Future outlook

Most growers are aware that their potato business is fragile and uncertain, the NEPG says. On the one hand, production costs have gone up during the last two seasons, yields have somewhat stagnated for the last four years, while storing potatoes is more expensive and difficult.

On the other hand, potato producers and the potato sector as a whole have often been singled out when water pollution, erosion and mud runoffs, and a lot of spraying are observed. Growers have to be aware of this, show that they are making a lot of effort, and communicate their situation better publicly, NEPG says. Growers expect that continued research and development will soon provide them with varieties and techniques that are better adapted to environmental constraints (blight, climate change) and societal expectations.

Source: North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG). Original release here

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